The Effect of Armed Conflict on the Utilization of Maternal Health Services in Uganda: A Population-based Study

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Amrita Namasivayam, Pedro Arcos González, Rafael Castro Delgado, and Primus Che Chi


Introduction: Maternal mortality rates can be adversely affected by armed conflict, implying a greater level of vulnerability among women, and is often linked to the lack of or limited access to maternal healthcare during conflict. Previous research in Uganda has shown that armed conflict negatively impacts women’s utilization of maternal healthcare services for a multitude of reasons at the individual, health-system and political levels.

Methods: This study compared aggregated Demographic and Health Surveys data from 13 districts in Northern Uganda, a conflict-affected region, with data from the rest of the country, for the use of maternal healthcare services for the years 1988, 1995, 2000, 2006 and 2011, using statistical analyses and logistic regression. Specific indicators for maternal healthcare utilization included contraceptive use, antenatal care, skilled assistance at birth and institutional delivery.

Results: Use of contraception and institutional deliveries among women in Northern Uganda was significantly lower compared to the rest of the country. However, skilled assistance at birth among women in Northern Uganda was significantly higher.

Conclusions: The findings in this study show that armed conflict can have a negative impact on aspects of maternal healthcare such as contraceptive use and institutional deliveries; however, other indicators such as skilled assistance at birth were seen to be better among conflict-affected populations. This reiterates the complex nature of armed conflict and the interplay of different factors such as conflict intensity, existing health systems and services, and humanitarian interventions that could influence maternal healthcare utilization.

Key words: Armed conflict, maternal health utilization, Northern Uganda, contraception, skilled assistance at birth, antenatal care, institutional delivery